A series of negative campaign ads, paid for by third party organizations, are turning up the heat in the state Senate District 8 Republican race, two weeks ahead of the June 26 primary.
Incumbent Jean White will face off against current Rep. Randy Baumgardner in the GOP primary for SD 8. The winner will run against Breckenridge Democrat Emily Tracy for the seat in November.
Outside groups have launched campaigns against both Republican candidates, with mailers and radio messages targeting the hopefuls' voting records.
Ads paid for by a committee called Coloradans for Integrity accuse Baumgardner of being "asleep" while lawmakers increased vehicle-registration fees and of voting against a measure said to protect northwestern Colorado from sexual predators. Baumgardner denies both accusations.
"There are a lot of lies and misconceptions out there," Baumgardner said. "I think it's been doing just the opposite of what they hoped it would be. It's making people mad because they're telling lies about me."
Coloradans for Integrity received a $12,500 contribution from the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA and a $15,000 contribution from Preserve Colorado's Economy.
White has also been the target of negative mailers focusing on her support of a bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.
The mailer, which shows two men kissing, was paid for by Public Advocates of the United States, a conservative group out of Washington, D.C.
White has publicly defended her position on civil unions, saying her support is in line with conservative positions on individual freedoms and limited government.
"I do support civil unions," White said at a recent candidate forum. "It is not about gay marriage."
White has a gay niece and nephew, the Denver Post reported, and has said most voters don't bring up civil unions.
Baumgardner said he doesn't blame White for the negative ads and intends to continue to run a clean campaign himself.
"I have never berated a fellow colleague," Baumgardner said. "Her voting record is her voting record, my voting record is mine."
But White criticized Baumgardner for challenging her for the SD 8 seat after she said he agreed not to do so. Baumgardner is forfeiting his seat in House District 57, where he had served for four years, after last year's reapportionment process extended the district east to include Boulder. He said he's making the bid for the Senate because he wants to continue to represent a western Colorado district.
White was appointed to the Senate seat her husband, Al White, vacated when he was tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to become director of tourism in 2011.
The two candidates met for a forum in Glenwood Springs on Monday, where they agreed on policy issues including an "all of the above" approach to energy development and support for local control in education spending.
But they parted ways on other topics, including same-sex unions and bipartisan efforts.
Baumgardner also later accused White of not always standing behind the traditional Republican agenda of reducing government.
White has in turn charged Baumgardner of siding with Front Range interests.
The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and the Denver Post contributed to the reporting of this story.